For, Friday, June 21, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: With the return of Chucky to theater screens this weekend and the zombie flick that opened last weekend, it feels like we should be celebrating Halloween instead of summer vacations. Which brought to mind this column, printed under the headline, 'Utah's a pretty great state for horror movies' on Oct. 15, 2010, in the Deseret News, chronicling some of the many fright flicks that have been filmed in Utah over the years. Yes, horror movies! And they’re all available on various video platforms if you want to check any out for yourselves.

Over the summer Michigan gave the boot to a horror movie that was looking for monetary incentives to film there. And the state’s film commissioner cited the script’s gruesome content as a reason.

The flesh-eating cannibals of “The Woman” — a sequel to last year’s Michigan-filmed (but set in Maine) “Offspring” — would be “unlikely to promote tourism in Michigan or present or reflect Michigan in a positive light,” according to film commissioner Janet Lockwood.

I would think residents of Maine would be more upset. When a movie is set in one state, does the average moviegoer even realize it might have been filmed in another?

Lockwood added she was put off by the “realistic cannibalism” … and “gruesome and graphically violent depictions” outlined in the screenplay. (Later a “communications consultant” for the Michigan Film Commission said it wasn’t the script’s content but “financing problems” that led to the decision. That’s called “spin,” folks.)

As a result, “The Woman” went to Massachusetts and received money from that state’s tax-incentive program. Apparently Massachusetts isn’t concerned about movie cannibalism affecting tourists’ appetite for Boston chowder. Especially when it’s set in Maine.

Anyway, with Halloween rapidly approaching and the Salt Lake Valley filled with ghoulish decorations, I began to think about all the many horror movies that have been filmed in Utah, and how many actually put the state in a “positive light.”

Here are a few; you be the judge.

—   “Carnival of Souls” (1962) is a low-budget, black-and-white cult favorite that has to do with zombie-style ghosts but there is no flesh eating. The bulk of the film is set in Salt Lake City and environs with a lengthy sequence that fills the Saltair pavilion with dancing specters.


— “The Car” (1977), starring James Brolin, is about a killer auto apparently possessed by Satan. The movie arrived 13 years after a similar episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled “You Drive” and six years before “Christine,” the movie based on Stephen King’s novel. Set in rural Utah and unintentionally hilarious. 

— “Damnation Alley” (1977), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi road picture, follows a team of soldiers traveling in a tricked-out all-terrain vehicle from California to New York. Along the way they stop in Salt Lake City, which is infested with thousands of oversized armor-plated killer cockroaches. What could better promote tourism?

— “Don’t Go in the Woods” (1981) is a simple-minded splatter film about a crazed mountain man killing hikers in an unspecified state. It was filmed in Brighton, perhaps to encourage hikers to stay on the trails.

— “The Boogins” (1981), bloodthirsty monsters with needle-like teeth and razor-sharp claws on the ends of their tentacles, live in a mine in Caribou Gulch, Colo., where they feed on miners. Not to discourage Sundance Film Festival prospects but it was filmed in Park City.

— “Cujo” (1983), based on Stephen King’s novel, is set in Maine but was partly filmed in Utah (and mostly in California), with Dee Wallace in a stalled car terrorized by a rabid St. Bernard. Where’s AAA when you need them?

— “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984) is a notorious film that prompted picketing of both the theaters that played it and its TV ads as parents went ballistic because the killer was dressed up as Santa. The unfortunate result was a publicity boost that pushed it beyond the level of just another low-budget slasher picture, making it a hit and paving the way for a sequel.


— “Warning Sign” (1984) stars Sam Waterston and Kathleen Quinlan in a ridiculous tale of germ-warfare research gone amok as a Utah military-lab experiment kills people who then rise up as zombies. Think “The China Syndrome” meets “Night of the Living Dead.”

— “Nightmare at Noon” (1987) is similar to “Warning Sign,” with Moab filling in for a fictional Utah desert town where contaminated drinking water turns locals into zombies.

— “Sundown, the Vampire in Retreat” (1988), also filmed in Moab, is a cult favorite for its dark satirical take on vampires living in a colony led by David Carradine and hunted by Bruce Campbell. A subplot about the vampires drinking synthetic blood so they can live among humans would later be co-opted for a number of popular vampire pictures.

— “The Terror Within” (1988) boasts more post-apocalyptic monsters, mutants with knife-like claws and rubber suits that appear to be left over from “The Alligator People.” The setting is unspecified but it’s Utah, folks.

— “Warlock” (1991) has a male witch and a witch hunter transported from 1691 Boston to 20th century Los Angeles. This is a mediocre, occasionally humorous yarn that has a climactic punchline that makes great use of the Bonneville Salt Flats (since salt is, of course, the only thing that can stop a witch).

And there are many more, including four entries in the “Halloween” franchise (with Salt Lake City’s Avenues area subbing for suburban Illinois) and these wonderfully titled efforts: “Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bees” (set in California, not Huntsville), the first of the “Species” movies, “Legion of Fire: Killer Ants,” “Troll 2” (considered an unintentionally funny camp favorite), “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Firestarter: The Next Chapter,” “The Darkling,” “Don’t Look Under the Bed,” Creepers,” “Berserker” and “Bats.”

Who knew Utah could be such a monstrous place?

So if you’re looking for a good horror movie to watch over the next couple weeks … um … you might want to look elsewhere.